real life

Deep down, everyone wants a partner. Discuss.


According to my Greek grandmother there are two types of people in this world: Those who are in relationships and those who wish they were.

(Actually, there are lots of ‘two types’ of people in her world: Greeks and non-Greeks, people with and without Foxtel, people she sends Christmas cards to and people she does not…)

And, according to her, those women not in a relationship can be divided into either women who wish they had a boyfriend and women who wish they had a girlfriend. The end.

(This argument is only ever offered about the ladies because men do not end up barren, haunted old spinsters who collect cans of beans and other people’s cats. Apparently.)

According to this logic there does not exist anywhere in the world people who are single and happy. Like properly happy. You can’t find them. They’re a myth. A lie told around the world. Like ‘leggings are a substitute for pants’ or ‘I had a good day jeans shopping.’

According to my grandmother, everyone, no matter who you are, needs amorous companionship. There are some 2 million homes in Australia that contain only single people. Are they happy? Discuss.

Apparently coupledom is ‘natural.’ It’s like the hot bread section of the buffet – the place where everyone wants to be. It’s our default mode and no matter what people say deep down we are social creatures who yearn to be paired off/married off/pissed off with another soul forever and ever amen.

Now I’m a bit of a feminist. I’m all about life choices and alternate pathways and rainbows and moonbeams and having whatever kind of relationship floats your boat. I know lots of happy single people who don’t want or need relationships and live utterly fulfilling exceptional lives solo. I know that you don’t need a partner or kids to live a life surrounded by love and contentment. I’m not single at the moment – I’m in a long distance relationship because I’m a moron who likes to feel sad at unexpected moments and cry at toilet paper commercials. But if something happened and I was single again I’d have no qualms about taking the unescorted path through life. (I was going to write ‘solo’ again but thesaurus suggested I use ‘unescorted’. I think it sounds like a fancier voyage through life draped in fine jewels, feather boas and clutching martini glasses…)


Ultimately I am an advocate for happiness, single, coupled or swingers. Whatever state people need to be content, as the french say le go for it. When my grandmother makes these kind of comments I get on my high horse/soapbox (whatever is closest) and quote the poetry of Destiny’s Child Independent Woman to her (ssh, she doesn’t know.)

But sometimes I wonder: could she be right? I know that people can be happy and single, but then again do I really know this? Or is this something people say to hide the truth that ultimately, deep down, everybody wants to be wanted? That sure, you can be single and moderately happy but that really coupledom is the winning goal. Paper beats rock.

Now I could razzle dazzle you with the pro-couple ‘science’ (or ‘things I have learnt from TV’) and says things like: Couples live longer. And Penguins mate for life. And single people end up dying alone and they’re not discovered until the postman smells something funky and decides to investigate.

But the sentiment is more succinctly expressed by my grandmother: ‘I worry for single people. They’re all alone. Who will help them if they have a fall?’

My grandma’s underlying feeling is this: Sure you can be happy single but you’re not really happy. Like shopping in Ikea for his and hers shower rails happy. Like escaping someone’s undercover fart happy. Like having someone to call the ambulance if you trip on a wet towel happy. That kind of happy.

I don’t know if I necessarily agree.

Is there such thing as single and happy? Or is single happiness the second place ribbon to coupledom?

Claire Varley is a writer and community development worker. She works with women, youth and communication for social change, and has worked in China, Nepal and the Solomon Islands. Check out her blog here.